The arden is a forest and area of highland in the United Kingdom, located near Stratford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire. Its name is thought to be derived from the Brythonic word ardu, meaning “high” or “highland.”
The Forest of Arden was a heavily forested area which covered much of the southern part of what was the county of Warwickshire in England. The forest was bounded by Roman roads Icknield Street, Watling Street and Fosse Way, a prehistoric salt track and the River Cole.
In the medieval era the forest became more enclosed and deforested. By the thirteenth century it was considered a royal forest, although the area did not have a significant presence of lords with the legal rights to govern forest land.
During the medieval era, a number of towns and villages were built in the forest including Henley-in-Arden, Tanworth-in-Arden, Hampton-in-Arden and Knowle. The forest also has a hotel and country club complex called the Forest of Arden Hotel and Country Club.
Arden Sandstone is a distinctive Triassic white heterolithic sandstone that was quarried from the local area and features prominently in many of the buildings in the villages across the region, such as Temple Balsall and Knowle. This sandstone contains a high concentration of calcium carbonate which, over time, gives the sandstone its characteristic reddish-purple hue.
There is a small village in the northern area of the forest called Lapworth, which was the birthplace of Robert Catesby, who led the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 and is reputed to be related to Shakespeare. This town has a history of being associated with the Protestant Reformation, but remains a stronghold for Catholic sympathies.
In the sixteenth century the Forest of Arden was an important site for a number of battles, most notably the Battle of Camp Hill. This was a major campaign in the English Civil War of 1642 – 1651.
The forest was an important area for the medieval aristocracy and was used as a hunting grounds, with bears, wolves, and other wildlife living in it. A medieval era wayside cross called the Coughton Cross sits at the south side of the forest and was allegedly a place where travelers would pray for safe passage through the forest prior to entering.
A national trail, the Arden Way runs through rural areas of the Forest of Arden. The trail traces old paths and routes which used to connect the major historic settlements in the forest.
It is believed that the forest was a popular destination for visitors, especially in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and that it provided an important source of income for people who lived nearby. There were several notable castles in the forest and a number of villages were inhabited by aristocrats.